Commentary: Two Wacky Weeks

May 19, 2017

Remember Pope Benedict the Sixteenth?  I’ll return to him in a moment.

The news is so dynamic just now.  It’s like waiting for the next shoe to drop from a centipede – not when but how many?  The humorist Dorothy Parker had an appropriate phrase: “What fresh Hell is this?”  

So what has happened in just the last two weeks?  President Trump fired FBI director James Comey.  Perhaps Trump thought that he would become best friends forever with Democrats so he could get some Democratic votes for his legislative proposals.  When it turned out the firing was probably because Comey would not pledge personal loyalty to Trump, lots of people in the Trump entourage ended up looking bad.

Then President Trump gave the Russians extremely sensitive intelligence acquired by the Israelis.  True -- the president, as commander-in-chief, can decide what is classified and can spill any secret he chooses to.  For some reason this reminds me of the exchange after the Vietnam War between a retired North Vietnamese general and a retired American general.  The American general said: “Your army never won a single battle it fought against the American army.”  The North Vietnamese general replied: “That may be true, but it is also irrelevant.”

Then Comey said Trump asked him in a meeting to drop the investigation the FBI was conducting about Russian interference in the 2016 election.  We are getting into obstruction of justice territory here, although it does matter that it was a suggestion and not an order.

But let’s pretend worst case scenario: President Trump is caught by the new special counsel or someone else with his hand in the constitutional cookie jar. And is facing either impeachment or the removal provision of the 25th Amendment.  Here’s where Pope Benedict comes in.  Recall that Benedict was, in 2013, the first Pope to retire.

Faced with impeachment or removal President Trump would retire.  He will never resign – that would be an admission of failure or wrongdoing.  Defending himself from impeachment would be much too great a bother.

Retirement would be consistent with what we have seen so far.  He would retire because he could.  He would retire because he would be the first.  And he would retire to resume doing what he loves to do most anyway – make money from his businesses.

You heard it here first.

Terry Smith is a political science professor at Columbia College and a regular commentator on KBIA's Talking Politics.